Facing an “Emotional Crunch”: State Visits as Political Performances During the Cold War

in German Politics and Society
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This article argues that state visits are highly symbolic political performances by analyzing state visits to Berlin in the 1950s and 1960s. The article concentrates on how state visits blended in the Cold War's culture of suspicion and political avowal. Special emphasis is placed on the role of mass media and on the guests' reactions and behavior. State visits to Berlin illuminate the heavy performative and emotional burden placed on all participants. Being aware of the possibilities for self-presentation offered by state visits, West German officials incorporated state visitors into their symbolic battle for reunification. A visit to Berlin with extensive media coverage was, therefore, of prime importance for the German hosts. Despite their sophisticated visualization strategies, total control of events was impossible. Some visitors did not want to play their allotted role and avoided certain sites in Berlin, refused to be accompanied by journalists or cancelled their trips altogether.